November 24, 1861: The day the Potomac ran red with blood at Lowe’s Island

On November 27, 1861, a note from John Hawkshurst, a Virginia civilian and unionist, arrived at Brigadier-General George McCall’s headquarters at Camp Pierpoint, Virginia.  The note read:

The following is a list of the citizens that attacked four of our men on Lowe’s Island, killing two of them, and stripped and left them so that the hogs ate them: Dr. William B. Day, Dr. John Day, Thomas Carper, John Coleman, Gilson Jenkins, Samuel Jenkins, Thomas Coleman (who now has one of the pistols taken at that time), James Farr, Philip Carper, James Carper and Stephen Farr. They are all residents about Dranesville. This information was furnished by three of Mrs. Coleman’s negroes who came into Camp Griffin November 26, 1861.

And thus blood was shed at Lowe’s Island.  However, let me admit the date in my teasing title is a guess.  The fragmentary report gives no indication of the actual date.  The killing (and leaving for the hogs) of two soldiers happened sometime in November of that year, most likely within a few days of the message’s receipt at Camp Peirpoint.

However, I find it appropriate to offer a speculative date for this incident since Lowe’s Island is in the news… and in the news specifically because of speculative Civil War history.  Yesterday the New York Times ran a story concerning a plaque at the Trump National Golf Course, pointing out the glaring inaccuracies.  Normally I don’t post about political topics.  But this particular subject sort of lands in my lap.  So I’ll attempt to step around the politics while pointing out the history amid the rhetoric.

You won’t find an HMDB entry for “The River of Blood.”  Back when I first noticed the plaque, probably around the time it was put in place (I think 2009 or 2010), it was my opinion the plaque did not measure up to the definition of “historical marker.”  And judging from the belated reaction to the plaque, it appears my judgement was fairly sound.  The text reads:

“The River of Blood”

Many great American soldiers, both of the North and South, died at this spot, “The Rapids”, on the Potomac River. The casualties were so great that the water would turn red and thus became known as “The River of Blood.”

It is my great honor to have preserved this important portion of the Potomac River!  – Donald John Trump.

You will find dozens of articles (some quoting Civil War authorities or written by such authorities) that are going to say “nothing” happened at the site during the Civil War.   I’ll give them some benefit of the doubt, maybe nothing of grand importance happened on the site of the golf course.   But the truth of the matter is somewhere between “River of Blood” and “nothing”… with the needle much closer to the nothing side of the scale.

The site of the golf course is Lowe’s Island, on the banks of the Potomac, here in Loudoun County (though very close to the county line).   The island is formed by an old chute of Sugarland Run.  What those of us from the Mississippi bottom lands would call a slough.  That channel passes between Lowe’s and the mainland, then empties into the Potomac just above Dam No. 2 and Seneca Falls.  The area may be familiar to readers, as it close to Rowser’s Ford.

Circling back to the 1861 incident, on November 26, Colonel George Bayard, 1st Pennsylvania Cavalry, led an expedition to the Dranesville area.  Bayard’s objective was to capture Confederate pickets known to be posted at the town.  This was somewhat a precursor to the Battle of Dranesville, which would occur the following month.  Bayard would succinctly report, on November 27, “We killed or captured all we saw.”  Among the names of those captured, Bayard offered many of the same listed in the note from Hawkshurst.  So either Bayard just cast a very wide net and happened to bring in the suspects, or he had in mind specific individuals when setting out on the mission.

But this was not the only “incident” that occurred on Lowe’s Island during the war.  As mentioned, General J.E.B. Stuart passed near the island as he struggled to cross in June 1863.  And that crossing point made the island an attractive staging area for both Federal and Confederate operations from time to time.  But the only other “action” that is documented occurred in late July 1863.  Confederate irregulars maintained a cache of stores and corralled livestock on Lowe’s Island.  Armed with that information, Major Ulysses Doubleday (brother of the general who is alleged to have invented baseball) lead a detachment of the 4th New York Heavy Artillery to clear the island.  Doubleday reported no casualties.  And his action freed Colonel Percy Wyndham to take the 1st New Jersey Cavalry through Dranesville on July 27

So there you have it… the “river of blood” at Lowe’s Island amounted to two soldiers, whom we don’t have names for, who were killed by some local citizens.  (UPDATE: Ron passed along some more information on thisThe soldiers were from the 34th New York.)  A far fetch from what is written on the plaque.

And that plaque?  Why are we making it news, some 154 years after the blood flowed on Lowe’s Island?  I think you can answer that question without much thought.  I’d simply say that when the “news” is something this stale, one has inclination to question the messenger as much as the message.

In his defense of the plaque, Trump gave something like a “my people talked to other people” response.  I will add that back when I first became aware of the plaque, my line of inquiry lead me to the names of two local historians who were said to have provided services to Trump’s business.  That does square with the narrative – Trump’s people discussed this with some local authority.  That authority provided the customer what he wanted to hear… and what would sound really nice on a plaque.  At a minimum, an authority who was unwilling to correct a mistaken appreciation for the facts.

And I think we need to keep that in mind on this issue. There are all sorts of folks out there selling a brand of “snake oil” that reads “history” on the bottle’s label.  It’s not hard, in Virginia, to concoct a story that is pleasing to the ears and the egos, given the rich history that appears on every corner.  Likewise, it is not hard to shuffle aside history where inconveniently in the way of some project.

That last part is why I object to the plaque.  Even if corrected for the historical inaccuracies, the plaque is like a dagger thrust.  Lowe’s Island was not preserved.  And the use of that verb on the plaque is a much larger miscarriage of fact than saying the Potomac ran red.

(Citations and sources: OR, Series I, Volume 5, Serial 5, pages 448-449; Series I, Volume 27, Serial 44, page 979; Series II, Volume 2, Serial 115, page 1286.)

Summary Statement: December 31, 1862 – Independent Illinois Batteries and “Others”

The 1st Regiment and 2nd Regiment Illinois Artillery offered some quirks in terms of weapons assigned or organizational assignments (particularly with the Thirteenth Corps being an evolving field organization).  In addition to those two regiments, Illinois offered a collection of independent batteries for service. And these batteries offer even more “headaches” from the perspective of administrative tracking.

For brevity, allow me to step around a detailed history of “how this came to be.”  As my line of march today is simply to present what was listed in the summary for December 31, 1862, I will contain conversations about lineage to the essentials.  (Someday… I really want to build an annotated index of artillery formations to aid tracking these… someday.)  For the scope of today’s post, here are the Illinois batteries that fell into that “outside the numbered regiments” category, as of December 1862:


Not a lot of artillery pieces, but batteries we need to identify.  By line, here is the breakdown:

  • Battery A, Third Artillery:  At Germantown, Tennessee (outside Memphis).  Six 6-pdr James 3.80-inch.  Follow the ball on this identification.  This was Captain Thomas M. Vaughn’s battery (sometimes Vaughan, but Vaughn appears on his service card), better known as the Springfield Independent Battery (entry below).  It was assigned to the District of Jackson, Thirteenth Corps in December 1862.  However, I think the location referencing Germantown was valid for the date of the return – July 1863 – when the battery was posted around Memphis.  Other portions of this battery’s summary raise questions, which we will discuss below.
  • Stoke’s [Stokes’] Battery:  No return. This was the Chicago Board of Trade Battery, commanded by Captain James Stokes.  The battery played an important role in the fighting at Stones River. We know from reports the battery had four 3-inch rifles and two James rifles in the battle.  Stokes supported the Pioneer Brigade on December 31, 1862.  The battery fired 1,450 rounds in the battle.
  • Springfield Battery: With the annotation “Entered as Co. A, 3rd Arty.”  I have no supporting documentation to explain why the battery would be designated as such.  Perhaps the intention was consolidate all the independent batteries in a new regiment, but the idea never got past Vaughn’s.
  • Mercantile Battery:  Properly, the Chicago Mercantile Independent Battery, or Captain Charles G. Cooley’s Independent Battery.  Date of receipt of its report was December 1864 – two years late!  Location of Chicago, Illinois is indicated.  The battery had been in Chicago until early November 1862.  They moved to Memphis that month and participated in Sherman’s expedition to Chickasaw Bayou.  The battery reported four 6-pdr field guns and two 3-inch Ordnance Rifles.
  • Elgin Battery:  Captain George W. Renwick’s Elgin Independent Battery.  Just mustered in the previous month, this battery was posted to the Department of Kentucky in December 1862.  No return posted.
  • Coggswell’s [Cogswell’s] Battery: Captain William Cogswell’s Independent Battery.  Originally Company A, 53rd Illinois Infantry.  Another late-posted return (June 1864) has this battery at Nashville, Tennessee.  That location is likely inferred due to the late report date.  Official records indicate Cogswell’s Battery was at Memphis, and part of the Thirteenth Corps’ Right Wing.   The battery reported four James rifles on hand.
  • Henshaw’s Battery:  Captain Edward Henshaw’s Independent Battery. No return posted.  This battery had just been mustered at the time of report.
  • 10th Illinois Cavalry:  Stores in charge, reported by a major.   The 10th was on duty in Missouri at the time.  On November 7, 1862, a detail of the 10th Illinois surrendered at Clark’s Mill, Missouri.  Among the weapons surrendered were two Woodruff Guns.  In fact, one might say the ineffectiveness of those guns, compared to conventional artillery (in that case lowly 6-pdrs, if I recall).  While no cannons or projectiles were carried in the summary, the 10th Cavalry had some implements on hand (though the return was not received until March 1864… slow mail).

That’s a lot to roll around.  But as you see, not a lot of cannons reported.  That makes the following snips easier to discuss… somewhat easier.  I say that as from the start there are questions with smoothbore ammunition:


The Springfield Battery, which indicated no smoothbores on hand, had 12-pdr howitzer ammunition – 72 shells, 42 case, and 50 canister.  The battery originally formed with a section of 12-pdr howitzers and apparently still had ammunition stocks left.

The Mercantile Battery had 308 shot, 252 case, and 252 canister for its 6-pdr field guns.

Moving to the rifled projectiles, first the Hotchkiss Patent:


Mercantile Battery had, in the 3-inch caliber (again, Hotchkiss) 160 shot, 40 canister, and 190 fuse shells.  Cogswell’s Battery reported 285 Hotchkiss shot for James 3.80-inch rifles. Continuing to the next page, the columns are entries for Hotchkiss (continued), Dyer’s, and James’ Patents:


The Springfield Battery had 180 Hotchkiss canister for James 3.80-inch rifles. The battery also reported 250 James patent 3.80-inch shot, 451 shell, and 30 canister.  Cogswell’s Battery also had James Patent projectiles – 25 shot, 350 shell, and 74 canister.

We see no entries for Parrot or Schenkl projectiles, but entries for Tatham’s pattern canister:


In the 3.80-inch caliber, the Springfield Battery had 36 on hand while Cogswell’s had 79. Lastly the small arms:


  •  Springfield Battery: 10 Horse artillery sabers.
  • Mercantile Battery: 30 Army revolvers and five horse artillery sabers.
  • Cogswell’s Battery: 13 Army revolvers, one Navy revolver, and two cavalry sabers.

One last note on the “others” listed here.  Looking specifically at the equipment reported by the 10th Illinois Cavalry, I find the “major” reported four sights for 6-pdr Wiard guns on hand, along with a few other implements specific to that caliber and make of weapon.  My first inclination is that the 10th Illinois was reporting the implements for Woodruff guns.  The closest weapons on the printed report, in terms of caliber, would be the 2.6-inch, or 6-pdr, Wiard gun.  Likewise, it may have been that in lieu of custom made Woodruff sights and sponges, the 10th was issued those made for the Wiards.

Regardless, that the 10th Illinois Cavalry, way out in remote southwestern Missouri, had to report these items (along with artilleryman’s haversacks, punches, and other artillery-specific equipment) speaks volumes for the tenacity and pure resiliency of those in the Ordnance Department!

Coffee Mill Guns? Or Woodruff Guns? What did Battery K, 1st Illinois tote on Grierson’s Raid?

Last week I offered a non-committal entry discussing the weapons assigned to Battery K, 1st Illinois:

Battery K: Paducah, Kentucky with ten Union Repeating Guns (or the Agar “coffee mill” gun).  This is intriguing, as we most identify the use of this weapon in the Eastern Theater.

With the length of the overall post covering the 1st Illinois, I didn’t wish to delve into interpretation of the entry.  The intent is to present the summaries “as is” from the start, with obvious corrections and questions offered.  From there, where the correction or question requires more discussion, offer that as a follow up.  Well… here’s a follow up!

First off, let us go back to the entry… or the “snip” … in question:


You might wish to click on the image above and open in Flickr to enlarge to see the fine details.  The line to follow across is 47.  The column in question is fourth from the right, or the first among the “Miscellaneous” sub-heading.  The column has a printed, not hand-written, name – “Union repeating gun.”  The summary indicates Battery K had ten of these on hand.


As mentioned in my original interpretation, the Union repeating gun was an invention of Wilson Agar (or Ager).  I have an affinity to the “campfire” name for the weapon – Coffee Mill Gun.  The name derives from the nature of the cranking mechanism used in this proto-machine gun:

While these machine gun type weapons are a bit out of my lane as they are not artillery “stuff.” So I am not claiming to be an expert on their design, manufacture, and use.  But as these are “ordnance,” I’ve run across a lot of interesting source references.  Over the years, the most interesting is the use of these Coffee Mill Guns in Loudoun County during the spring of 1862.  So while rare, the Coffee Mill Guns saw some use in the Eastern Theater.  Not counting the entry for Battery K, scant few accounts reference the use of these weapons in the western theater.  The only one that comes to mind is an account indicating the Federal riverine fleet received a few for use on gunboats.

Now this Battery K entry is not exclusive to just the December 1862 summary.  The summaries into 1863 report the same ten Union repeating guns.  In addition, if we expand the snip out a bit to look at columns for “unservicable” weapons (which rarely have any entries), we see the battery had ten more items tallied:


Again, you may wish to click and open in Flickr to see that next to last column.  If not, here’s a blow up of the header:


Second column from the right.  This one is a mix of hand-writing and printed – “Carriages & limbers for Union repeating guns.”

Now keep in mind the general process for getting the numbers in the columns.  The battery in the field would complete a return and send that to the Ordnance Department in Washington. The return was reviewed in Washington.  A clerk (or team of clerks, more likely) would extract the data for entry into a very large ledger.  That became the “summary.”  And let me stress again, that was the “quick and simple” explanation here.

Bottom line, when we apply that process, is that clerks back in Washington were trying to put numbers into a standard, very detailed, yet rigid entry form.  There was not a lot of room for “other” within the form’s columns.  Yes there are blank columns in which we see hand written column headers.  But for the most part, it seems the clerks sought to use the printed entry columns.  What we see here, I think is an attempt to adapt the printed columns to contend with some out of the ordinary data entry need.

In this case, the entry for Battery K puts us in front of a lot of questions.  Readers may recall that within a few months of the report (which was apparently filed in December 1862), Battery K had left Paducah, Kentucky for Memphis, Tennessee.  In April 1863 the battery was selected for a special mission.  Along with the 6th and 7th Illinois and 2nd Iowa Cavalry, Battery K was part of a raid led by (then) Colonel Benjamin Grierson (which you might have seen dramatized in a movie…).  And on that raid, the men of Battery K toted along a set (six, though some say four) of 2-pdr Woodruff light cannons.

The Woodruff gun is another thread that deserves a separate post (if not several).  Allow me to give the short version here for brevity.  James Woodruff of Quincy, Illinois came up with the idea for a very light artillery piece that could be pulled by men if the horses were disabled. The gun measured three feet in length and weighed just over 250 pounds.  The gun’s bore was 2 ⅛, and was intended to use canister (seven one ounce lead balls) or small caliber solid shot (the caliber closely matching 12-pdr grape-shot sizes).  Later in the war a solid projectile resembling a large mine-ball was produced for the Woodruff.  Cited range for the gun was 700 yards.

The Greenleaf Foundry in Quincy made six of these guns for local defense.  The Ordnance Department, under some high level political pressure, ordered thirty, complete with carriages and limbers.  Assuming that was the full production run, these weapons end up referenced in a surprising number of locations.  Aside from use on Grierson’s Raid, the weapons are mentioned in use around Memphis, and still later in Missouri at Pilot Knob.

If you are looking for more information on the Woodruff, there is a lengthy, but now somewhat dated, article on the weapon in the May 1973 issue of Civil War Times.  The whole of which is posted on a website for The Turner Brigade, Missouri Volunteers:

So where does that have us with respect to Battery K?

Well let’s go with “Door Number 1”:  The battery had Coffee Mill Guns at Paducah, then were issued Woodruff Guns sometime in the winter or spring of 1863, prior to Grierson’s Raid.  But I’d counter that the Ordnance Department kept listing Coffee Mill Guns well into 1863.  Why wouldn’t they have substituted a hand written column for the Woodruff Guns in order to ensure the integrity of the entry?

OK, “Door Number 2”: Battery K had both Coffee Mill Guns and Woodruff Guns through the reporting period, but only the machine guns were tallied.  Well, that might sound plausible.  But such would require more men than Battery K was authorized.

Now “Door Number 3”:  Battery K had Woodruff Guns at Paducah.  The clerk performing the entries didn’t find an easy place to put the tallies.  Perhaps he was confused as to the nomenclature.  At any rate, the tally of ten weapons in the “Union repeating gun” column are actually “Woodruff Guns.”  Likewise, lacking a column to indicate a quantity of non-standard carriages and limbers, the clerk used the repeating gun’s unservicable column.

My thinking is we have a case of Number 3.  All of this, of course, brings the observation that all these entries in the summaries need be taken with a grain of salt.  And such is why I offer “as is” to be used in conjunction with other sources.

One last note on Battery K, as they were certainly not just a collection of cannons (or machine guns) and equipment.  Captain Jason B. Smith organized and commanded the battery.  Smith was born in South Carolina in 1805, but his family moved west during his teenage years.  Pre-war records indicate he lived in Pope and Johnson Counties, in the southern part of Illinois.  He was a blacksmith and a preacher – two avocations that some would argue go together… and perhaps two professions that provide a good skill-set for a battery commander in war.

Fortification Friday: Bastion Forts are the preferred, yet most complex simple “intrenchements”

We’ve heard Dennis Hart Mahan’s lessons on simple “intrenchments” and thus far covered open works and closed works.  Of the latter, the subset included redoubts, star forts, and bastion forts.  The last of those three is, considering the diagram offered to illustrate, somewhat where we started:


I’ve traced the bastion fort’s plan in blue for clarity.  Mahan’s textbook diagram left out the third bastion of this plan, so I’ve added dashed lines where the walls would extend further.  From there you’ll have to use your imagination.  Shouldn’t bee too hard, as this would be a common plan most have seen applied to forts of the era.

Mahan introduced the bastion fort with a hand of preference:

The bastion fort satisfies more fully the conditions of a good defense, than any other work; but, owning to the time and labor required for its construction, it should be applied only to sites of great importance, which demand the presence of troops during the operations of a campaign.

Before we go too much further, let’s go back and note what a bastion was, formally speaking.   We saw the term used as an alternate label for the lunette.  A bastion, be it the detached variety (which I’ll call a lunette for better distinction) or an “attached” specimen as part of a bastion fort, includes two faces and two flanks, thus including a salient angle.

And, as with all these fixtures in the fortifications, there were variations of bastions to describe… and denominate.  We’ve mentioned lunettes as detached bastions.   Beyond that, there is reference to empty bastions, full bastions, flat bastions, demi-bastions, and tower bastions.

Empty bastions were constructed so that the interior of the bastion was at the same level of the interior of the larger fortification.  Full bastions, on the other hand, had elevated interiors.   One immediate application for a full bastion was to afford artillery a clear, elevated line of fire out of the fortification.

Off hand, we identify bastions as a feature for the corners of fortifications.  But, as mentioned in the discussion of redoubts, sometimes a bastion was needed along the side of a fortification.  This was known as a flat bastion.  I remember it as a bastion attached to the “flats” of the fortification plan.

Demi-bastions, or half-bastions, are somewhat as the name implies – a plan where one side of the bastion contains a face and flank, while the other side is just a straight line back to the base line of the fortification.  Somewhat asymmetrical, yes.  But more common than one might believe as half-bastions allowed engineers better adjustments to local conditions.  However, I would point out that Mahan didn’t recommend these half solutions.

And tower bastions?  Originally this term applied to masonry fortifications, specifically a structure built that included gun embrasures and interior galleries.  But sometimes the term was applied to earthen works where the bastion had elaborate gun positions, traverses, and bombproofs added.  It’s not technically “correct” but who am I to argue with a 150 year old account?

So, you see the engineer had a lot of choices in regard to bastions.  And these being Mahan’s preferred type of “intrenchment,” there was a great deal of emphasis placed on learning how to plan a bastion fort.  We’ll walk through that in detail in future posts.  The larger point, making this a good place to pause in the discussion, is that Mahan impressed upon his students the favorable aspects of the bastion fort.  He followed that up with deliberate instructions for building those bastion forts correctly.  His students were not a bunch of “nobody” cadets, but rather the fellows that ended up in charge of “the show.”  Little wonder we see a lot of bastions built from 1861 to 1865.

(Citation from Dennis Hart Mahan, A Treatise on Field Fortifications, New York: John Wiley, 1852, page 14.)


Navigation updates, new menus and pages

Some post-sesquicentennial house-keeping was in order.  So I’ve added several new pages over the last couple of weeks with the aim ease navigation to certain threads I featured during the 150ths.  All the new pages provide logical groupings for posts from January through June of this year.

Under the subject heading of Charleston, there is now a sub-page for the End of the War at Charleston along with a separate page for Potter’s Raid.

More work was needed for Sherman’s March, as that became a daily installment for much of the winter and spring.  Sub-pages there include Savannah to Columbia; Columbia to Fayetteville; Bentonville to Goldsboro; and finally To Bennett Place and War’s EndForgot to add… No, these are not exhaustive, complete treatments of the subject.  If you want the “book” on Sherman’s march, then you’ll be buying several books.  I’ll admit that my blog posts left out a lot of topics that need to be addressed in a complete discussion of the Great March (likewise for Charleston in the war).  I plan to address some of those in the post-sesquicentennial.

For now these pages simply provide a list of links in the order that I’d suggest reading.  Not to say you have to read in that order.  Or to say you have to read at all!  But it would be nice if you click through so as I can trump old Harry Smeltzer on the hit counter.

At some point in the near future, I’ll be tinkering with the blog theme and layout a bit more.  For the non-technical audience, the look, feel, and layout of the blog and pages.  I’ve been on this “Coraline” theme for quite some time.  It is familiar, but getting old in the tooth.  But I promise to avoid some silly, frilly, bubbly new theme that is hard for folks to navigate around.  Sort of a “change is good but not too much change, thank you” update.

Summary Statement: December 31, 1862 – 2nd Illinois Artillery Regiment

Like the First Regiment Illinois Artillery, the Second Regiment of the state’s artillery was serving almost exclusively in the Western Theater as of the end of December 1862.  However, the summary of equipment in use by the 2nd Regiment was far less complicated.  As usual, let us start by reviewing the postings of those batteries and their cannons (Standard declaration here – yellow lines are the “rules” across the data entry lines; red lines are the “cuts” needed to make these presentable for discussion):


First thing we notice is the lack of information filed for several batteries (thus, perhaps, greatly simplifying the summary).

  • Battery A:  No report.  This battery was on duty at Helena, Arkansas as part of the Department of Missouri.
  • Battery B: Corinth, Mississippi. No field artillery reported.  Notice the addition of the word “siege” in the regiment column.  The battery was part of the Thirteenth Corps, Army of the Tennessee.
  • Battery C: Fort Donelson, Tennesse. Four James 3.80-inch rifles.  Also part of the Thirteenth Corps, but posted to hold vital posts in the rear.  These artillerymen were destined to be garrison troops for most of the war.
  • Battery D: Decatur, Alabama.  Four James 3.80-inch rifles.  Also with the Thirteenth Corps.
  • Battery E: No report.  Battery E began the war as Schartz’s Missouri Battery.  In December 1862, they were part of the Thirteenth Corps and saw service in Grant’s Central Mississippi Campaign.
  • Battery F: Lake Providence, Louisiana.  Two 6-pdr field guns and two 12-pdr howitzers. This battery was part of the Thirteenth Corps, and was actually campaigning with Grant in Central Mississippi at the close of December 1862.  They would, however, be posted at Lake Providence in January.  So the location and tallies may be “as of” the moment the return was written (April 1863).
  • Battery G: No report.  Also in Thirteenth Corps and posted in Mississippi at the end of December.
  • Battery H: No report. If my sources are correct, this battery was at Clarksville, Tennessee.
  • Battery I: Nashville, Tennessee.  Two 12-pdr Napoleons and two 10-pdr Parrotts.  Part of the Fourteenth Corps, Army of the Cumberland.  Battery I missed the battle of Stones River, but later joined the army forward at Murfreesboro.
  • Battery K: No report.  Another Thirteenth Corps battery and was assigned to the District of Jackson, Tennessee.
  • Battery L:  “In the Field” in Louisiana.  Four James 3.80-inch rifles. This may be another “as of this report” status. Battery L was with the District of Jackson, Thirteenth Corps, and Logan’s Division, Right Wing, of the Corps for Grant’s Central Mississippi Campaign.  Shortly into the new year, Battery L was at Lake Providence, Louisiana.
  • Battery M: No report.  This battery surrendered at Harpers Ferry on September 15.  They were still un-exchanged, on parole, at the end of December.  Their guns, of course, were under new ownership.

There is a lot of “missing data” that I’d expect to see here.  Excepting Battery M, these batteries were in Grant’s command.  I’ve used the “easy out” of saying they were in Thirteenth Corps. Those knowledgeable of Western Theater operations recognize that as somewhat ambiguous.  Perhaps to clarify, I will post something on the lineage of the Thirteenth Corps and the formations it spawned through the winter of 1863.  If nothing else, would help to clarify the service assignments of these batteries!

The 2nd Regiment Illinois Artillery had but two batteries with smoothbore cannons:


  • Battery F: 6-pdr field gun – 188 shot, 163 case, and 46 canister.  12-pdr field howitzer – 120 shells, 145 case, and 31 canister.
  • Battery I: Had only 259 12-pdr shot for their Napoleons.

Moving on to rifled projectiles, find most of the entries are for James projectiles for those fine bronze James rifles:


Remember, these were listed by “Patent” pattern, then by weapon type and caliber.  Such as “Hotchkiss” for “James” of 3.80-inch”:

  • Battery C: James (Patent) 3.80-inch – 119 shot, 425 shell, and 125 canister.
  • Battery D: James 3.80-inch – 109 shot, 215 shell, 64 case, and 60 canister.
  • Battery I: James 3.80-inch – 368 shot.  Parrott 10-pdr – 440 shells.  This needs some explaining.
  • Battery L: Hotchkiss Patent for James  3.80-inch – 76 canister; James Pattern 3.80-inch – 14 shot, 376 shell, and 144 canister.

Remember that Battery I had 10-pdr Parrotts along with their two Napoleons.  Neither of which used 3.80-inch caliber projectiles. So what were the James shot being used for?  I recall some reference to Battery I having turned-in some James rifles earlier in the fall.  But I need to track that down to verify.

And one more rifled projectile entry for us on the next page:


Battery D with 128 Schenkl Patent James 3.80-inch shells.

Lastly, the small arms:


With all the missing reports, we have scant data here:

  • Battery C: 20 Army revolvers and 58 cavalry sabers.
  • Battery K: 4 carbines and 16 horse artillery sabers.

Earlier when I was constructing these snips and cross-referencing notes, I wanted to dig further to fill in the missing data.  In particular, cite the types of weapons on hand.  Many of these batteries were involved with the Vicksburg Campaign.  And the guns they pulled through Mississippi are known.  But I thought better of including that here for the moment.  This is a “snapshot in time” of the batteries, reflecting what was reported for December 1862 as opposed to what the batteries might have had months later.  That said, for now I prefer to leave the open spaces as they are.  There will be time later to fill in those blanks.

Summary Statement: December 31, 1862 – 1st Illinois Artillery Regiment

During the war, Illinois provided two regiments of artillery and a regiment’s worth of independent batteries.  Many of those batteries achieved fame on the battlefield, and are well known to those familiar with the Western Theater.  Looking at their equipment, we will discover a wide array of issued weapons among these regiments.  We see that with the summary statement of the 1st Illinois Light Artillery Regiment:


We see that even into December 1862 the Illinois batteries reflected the “rush to war” in the nature of the cannons reported.  Also worth noting is the number of batteries which were not only “in the field” but also actually engaged in combat as of December 31, 1862:

  • Battery A: At Vicksburg Mississippi with four 6-pdr field guns and two 12-pdr field howitzers.  Battery A was assigned to the Thirteenth Corps, Army of the Tennessee at reporting time.  They were part of the action at Chickasaw Bayou outside Vicksburg at the end of the year.
  • Battery B: Also at Vicksburg, but with five 6-pdrs and only one 12-pdr field howitzer.  Battery B was also at Chickasaw Bluffs.
  • Battery C: At Murfreesboro, Tennessee.  They were assigned to Third Division (Sheridan), Right Wing, Fourteenth Corps, Army of the Cumberland.    In action on December 31, they fired 1,154 rounds, lost 95 horses, and all their guns.  Thus the slim return for this summary.  I don’t know exactly what Battery C had going into battle, but know they had at least some rifled guns.
  • Battery D: No return received.  The battery was part of the Right Wing, Thirteenth Corps, Army of the Tennessee, operating out of Jackson, Tennessee at the time.
  • Battery E: At Vicksburg with six James 3.80-inch rifles.  I don’t find this battery on the order of battle for Chickasaw Bayou, but it was part of the District of Memphis, from which Sherman drew his forces for the campaign.
  • Battery F: Camp Sherman, Mississippi with four James 3.80-inch rifles.  The battery was in the Right Wing (McPherson), Thirteenth Corps at the reporting time.
  • Battery G: Had four 24-pdr field howitzers.  Battery G was part of the District of Corinth, Thirteenth (later Seventeenth) Corps.
  • Battery H: At Vicksburg with two 6-pdr field guns and two 20-pdr Parrott rifles.  Also at Chickasaw Bayou.
  • Battery I: No return received.  Battery I was also part of McPherson’s Right Wing, Thirteenth Corps.  They were guarding the railroads outside Memphis at the time.
  • Battery K: Paducah, Kentucky with ten Union Repeating Guns (or the Agar “coffee mill” gun).  This is intriguing, as we most identify the use of this weapon in the Eastern Theater.  (UPDATE: Battery K likely did not have these guns, but some other “light” weapon.  More on this in a follow up post.)
  • Battery L: At New Creek, Virginia, with two 12-pdr Napoleons and four James 3.80-inch rifles.  Battery L was part of the Eighth Corps, and posted in soon-to-be West Virginia.
  • Battery M: Munfordsville, Kentucky, reporting three 10-pdr Parrott rifles.

As you can see, there are a lot of threads to follow among those twelve batteries. Again, were this post not focused on the summary, I’d love to break down individual battery histories.

But that is not the line of march today.  So onward to the smoothbore projectiles reported.  We’ll look at this in two sections.  First the 6-pdrs and 12-pdrs:


These were reported in three batteries:

  • Battery A:  6-pdr field gun – 148 shot,  512 case, and 117 canister. 12-pdr field howitzer – 120 shell, 107 case, and 36 canister.
  • Battery B: 6-pdr field gun – 350 shot, 270 case, and 131 canister.   12-pdr field howitzer – 30 shell, 160 (?) case, and 19 canister.
  • Battery L: 6-pdr field gun – 70 shot.  12-pdr Napoleon – 136 shot, 122 shell, 180 case, and 88 canister.

Note the entry for Battery L with seventy 6-pdr solid shot.  It was often reported that batteries would use 6-pdr ammunition in James rifles.  The projectile fit, of course. Here we see documentation of that practice in the field.

A lesser note here – Battery H, with two 6-pdrs, reported no rounds for those pieces on hand.

Also in the smoothbore category, we have Battery G with those big 24-pdr field howitzers:


So for four howitzers only 36 shells, 30 case, and 24 canister on hand.

Moving to the rifled projectiles, first on the sheet are those of Hotchkiss Patent:


Follow this close:

  • Battery F: Wiard 3.67-inch – 107 shot on hand.
  • Battery L: James 3.80-inch – 210 shot and 28 “bullet shell” or case. 3-inch – 40 percussion shells and 160 fuse shells.

For two lines, we have a lot to talk about.  Remember these are Hotchkiss-type projectiles made to work with particular types of rifled artillery – in the case of these two batteries those are James rifles.  But, what about Wiard?  My first response is “if it fits, we fire it!”  The difference between the Wiard 12-pdr’s 3.76-inch bore and the James 3.80-inch bore allows that.  But let us relegate that for the moment to supposition and speculation.  This could also be due to a mistake in the supply system… or a mistake in reporting.  That explanation could also carry over to the entries for Battery L, which would have little to no use for 3-inch projectiles.

Moving to the next page, none of the 1st Illinois batteries reported Dyer’s Patent projectiles.  But they did, of course, have those of James’ Patent:


Three batteries reporting quantities of “6-pdr James” of 3.80-inch bore:

  • Battery E – 480 shell and 160 canister.
  • Battery F – 100 shot, 378 shell, and 100 canister.
  • Battery L – 320 shot, 36 shell, and 19 canister.

So as one might expect in terms of issue, but interesting that Battery L had small quantities of shell and canister on hand.  Instead that battery had a lot of solid shot (also count the 70 6-pdr smoothbore and 107 Wiard solid shot mentioned above).  We’ll see more tallies for Battery L below.

Batteries H and M had Parrott rifles on hand, and they reported projectiles for those guns:


  • Battery H:  20-pdr (3.67-inch) Parrott – 120 shell, 48 case, and 57 canister.
  • Battery M: 10-pdr (2.9-inch) Parrott – 285 shell and 105 canister.

The next set of columns listed Schenkl projectiles:


Here we find Battery L had 132 Schenkl shells for their James rifles.  Still only a fraction of the shells on hand for the two western batteries.

On the far right of that snip, we can add 172 Tatham’s pattern canister, in 3.80-inch caliber, for Battery L’s James rifles.  However, Battery F reported 183 Tatham’s pattern canister in 3.67-inch for their James rifles.  One wonders how the logisticians kept track of projectiles which differed by just over a tenth of an inch.

Finally, the small arms:


Entries in almost every column:

  • Battery A: 14 Army revolvers, 60(?) Navy revolvers, two cavalry sabers and a horse artillery saber.
  • Battery B: 50 Navy revolvers and 11 cavalry sabers.
  • Battery C: 8 Navy revolvers and 8 cavalry sabers.
  • Battery E: 10 cavalry sabers.
  • Battery F: 25 Army revolvers and six cavalry sabers.
  • Battery G: 45 of what ever the .58-caliber long arm reported in the third column (See update below).  45 cavalry sabers and 16 foot artillery sabers.
  • Battery H: 17 Navy revolvers and 9 cavalry sabers.
  • Battery K: 12 Springfield .58-caliber rifles and 114 horse artillery sabers.
  • Battery L: 17 carbines and 148 cavalry sabers.

UPDATE: Phil Spaugy suggested the third column’s written header could be “Whitney, cal .58.”  Those being modified Model 1841 rifles.  This matches information from Arming the Suckers by Ken Baumann, for Battery G.

Sorry for the length of this post.  But that’s what it takes to detail some of the anomalies in the 1st Illinois Light Artillery, as of December 1862.